Other Nations Have 'Value-Added' Immigration Policies – the U.S. Doesn't

By David North on November 1, 2011

Other English-speaking nations have "value-added," "evidence-based" immigration policies, but the U.S., to its detriment, does not.

That is the chilling, central message of Value Added Immigration: Lessons for the United States from Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, a new book by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall, which was unveiled at a seminar in Washington yesterday, hosted by the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank and the publisher of the book.

Dr. Marshall, who served in the Carter administration, compared the immigration policies of the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada and found many differences between those of the U.S. and those of the other three nations.

Generally the others stressed "value-added" policies designed to lift the skills set of the nation as a whole, did so in a flexible manner, and had excellent data and analytical systems, and, thus, unlike the U.S. were "evidence-based."

In contrast, Dr. Marshall said, the U.S. policies were made, if made at all, by a clumsy decision-making system, had a heavy emphasis on family immigration, and lacked any coherent analytical basis. Further, rather than adding value, the U.S. system (in both its immigrant and its non-immigrant policies) tended to depress wages for citizens and aliens alike.

Regarding the inflexibility of the U.S. system, Dr. Marshall cited a British contrast, that of the case of the Prague newspaper that, on a Friday, said it was easy for people from the Czech Republic to secure asylum status in Great Britain. By the following Monday the UK government had changed its policies, and instituted a visa requirement on Czechs. (The Czech Republic, of course, is a genuine democracy and its people have no reason to apply for asylum anywhere.)

The author said that among the aspects of immigration policy in the other nations were these:

  • Immigration policy is an integral part of over-all economic policy;

  • Immigration is managed at a high level in the other governments, by cabinet members in Australia and Canada, and by a senior minister in the UK's Home Office. (In contrast, in the U.S., it is managed by a scattering of assistant secretaries and lesser officials, spread through five cabinet agencies: Homeland Security, State, Justice, Labor, and Health and Human Services, locus of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.)

  • There is a much greater allocation in the other nations, as high as 65 percent, of economic migrants rather than family ones.

  • Standards of what constitutes a migration-creating "labor shortage" are much tougher in the other nations.

  • Techniques to avoid wage-depressing admissions are stronger in the other nations than in the U.S.

  • Data collection, and its analysis, is much more extensive on immigration matters in these nations than in the U.S.

  • As to integration of arriving immigrants, Canada, strengthened with its experience with Quebecers, is much better than any other nation.

There was a panel of scholarly book reviewers at the session, Professor Philip Martin of UC/Davis, Michael Teitelbaum, now with the Harvard Law School, and Professor Ron Hira of the Rochester Institute of Technology, all of whom admired the book, and added their own comments on the policy differences among the four nations studied.

Several of them spoke approvingly about a new British institution, the Migration Advisory Council (MAC), that was created by the Labour government, and retained by the current coalition government, to use a rational system to determine the existence of "labor shortages" and whether it makes sense to use the immigration mechanism to cope with any shortages detected.

Teitelbaum said he was awed by the MAC's appointment system; instead of being appointed through a political process (as he, himself, had been to prior U.S. immigration commissions) it was selected by academics in a peer-review process that he said would be impossible to imagine in the United States.

Martin said, in response to a question, that the other nations had less difficulty with the farm labor problems than we do because they had a much smaller incidence of illegal aliens in that work force than does the U.S., and that labor-intensive agriculture is more significant in the U.S. than in the other nations.

Hira pointed out that, in contrast to the U.S., the other nations had much more substantial policy input from organized labor on migration issues than has been the recent case in the U.S., and he complained about the lack of even the most basic data in the U.S. on the impact of immigration on the nation.

Some more information about Value-Added Immigration: Lessons for the United States from Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom is here and a video of the seminar will eventually be found here.

Topics: Canada